In the midst of discussing issues of common concerns such as a regional health insurance plan and developing a breadfruit industry on Friday morning, Micronesian presidents and governors took a moment of silence and reflected on the lasting legacies of the late South African president and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, not only to the African nation but also to the rest of the world.
Mandela, who became South Africa’s first black president after enduring 27 years in prison for his role in fighting apartheid, passed away on Thursday (Friday, CNMI time). He was 95.
At the 19th Micronesian Chief Executives Summit, chairman and CNMI Gov. Eloy S. Inos and Guam Gov. Eddie B. Calvo spoke of Mandela’s ideals and actions that have lasting impacts on islands as far away as Micronesia.
“It was all about equality and freedom for all people. And as we look at the surrounding membership here, we are [among] the youngest democracies in the world, here represented in Micronesia, fighting for the same cause of individual liberty. We have some of the youngest member states that have taken full political maturity and as well as American territories still looking forward…to full political self-determination and autonomy,” Calvo told the crowd at the Fiesta Resort & Spa in Garapan.
Calvo spoke of Mandela’s fight against apartheid, a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race.
This comes at a time when the CNMI, a U.S. territory, is weighing two pending national immigration reform bills in Congress that has a provision granting pathway to improved status for long-term, legal aliens in the CNMI. The same bills—S. 744 and H.R. 15—grants a pathway to citizenship for some 11 million undocumented aliens in America.
Guam, for its part, is also on its continuing quest for political self-determination.
Inos and Calvo said it’s only fitting that as the summit was coming to a close, they also honor Mandela whom they both described as a “great man.”
“A moment of silence for the passing of a great man not only for the people of South Africa and Africa, but for peoples all over the world,” Calvo said.
Inos said islanders share the same values that Mandela espoused.
“Quest for advancement, our political future, so I think it is proper that we take a moment to reflect on the passing of a great man,” Inos added.
Friday marked the last of the three-day 19th Micronesian Chief Executives Summit, which brought together nine Micronesian presidents and governors or their representatives, to discuss and take action on issues of common concerns such as climate change and environment, economic development, healthcare, and human trafficking.
The summit brought together the leaders of the CNMI, Guam, Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated of Micronesia and its four states—Pohnpei, Yap, Chuuk, and Kosrae.
Around the globe, people are mourning Mandela’s passing and are paying tribute to his life of sacrifice and profound commitment to equality and freedom.
U.S. President Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States, called Mandela “a man who took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.”
“We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. So it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set: to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love; to never discount the difference that one person can make; to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice,” Obama said in a White House briefing on Thursday.
South African President Jacob Zuma said, “We’ve lost our greatest son.”
CNMI delegate to U.S. Congress, Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), also paid tribute to Mandela, “who led South Africa from a state of division and oppression to become a rainbow nation.”
“His allegiance to this principle of equality cost the great man 27 years behind bars, which President Obama remembered in a eulogy yesterday, repeating Mandela’s own words from the prisoner’s dock: ‘I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.’ Though Nelson Mandela has passed on, let us all keep his ideal alive,” Sablan said.